Into the guts of Gunsight Mountain we go. Other plans were made, but somehow this place magnetized us, drew us in, called to us from a long way off; sang a song kindled in our hearts. Passing by or crossing over all of the water emerging from what the Kootenai Indians called Old Man Ice, Old Woman Ice, Daughter Ice and eventually Son Ice. My imagination wanders with the bending blades of lake grass, layers of folding stone and cascading water traversing the naked mountainsides. The dresses and gowns of the last ice age have been worn and tattered revealing something else; secrets.
Once, this Gunsight country was home to the Kootenai nation later pushed westward by the Nitsitapii (Blackfeet, “the real people”). As the Kootenai receded to the west they used various paths over the mountains to hunt the animals of the plains. Looking ahead, I can imagine the Kootenai warriors threading the pass and descending towards St. Mary Lake. Each of their sojourns for food a trident of risk; the mountains, the buffalo and the Blackfeet.
During the day the sun shone brilliantly in the fall sky and during the night a crescent moon would set early. Star light seeps through and plunges into the minds of gazers like me. Such wonder and mystery hanging right in front of me. We are in country we’ve not seen before and we hope to pass the shores of Feather Woman, a lake on the way to Son Ice. Feather Woman was a star gazer. She fell in love with the Morning Star and in their love produced Poia. Poia brought the Sun Dance to the people of the Blackfeet nation. The Sun Dance was taught to Poia directly by the Sun who promised Poia that by dancing the Sun Dance sickness and suffering would be cured.
I’ve never learned the Blackfeet Sun Dance, but I feel as though I’m learning my own. Step, leap, hop, turn-a-round, step, step. Sounds vibrating from the wilderness make the music. Grateful, humble, loved, free of sickness and with each step life was celebrated.